TOWAMENCIN >> Gianna Poletti got two chances to bat in the top of the second inning. Both times Tri-Valley softball’s senior shortstop sent a pitch over the left-field fence.
“I was just really excited,” said Poletti, who is committed to Auburn. “Cause the first one it sort of broke things open and then the second one I was just like I didn’t really know that one was going out.”
Poletti hit two of the Bulldogs’ four home runs as the District 11 champions erupted on offense in the second frame of Monday afternoon’s PIAA-1A first-round matchup with District 1 champ Dock Mennonite.
Tri-Valley sent 20 batters to the plate, collected 12 hits and scored all 15 of its runs in the top of the second and rolled past the Pioneers 15-0 in three innings at North Penn.
“Certainly didn’t expect this,” Dock coach Wayne Benner said. “I knew they were a good team, I did scout ‘em, I knew kind of what they did, but the game I scouted they certainly didn’t hit home runs like that.”
The Pioneers, making their first state appearance since 2017, kept the contest scoreless after the top of the first after pitcher Aubrey Gahman stranded a runner on third with a strikeout.
Emma Maurer, however, led off the second with a homer to left and two batters later Maddy Schwalm’s one-out solo blast to left made it 2-0.
“Didn’t shock me that they hit a home run,” Benner said. “It just shocked me that they keep coming.”
A Libby McGrath walk and Olivia Lupole’s bunt single put two on for Poletti, who extended Tri-Valley’s advantage to 5-0 with her first longball.
“That’s honestly my favorite pitch – the inside pitch,” Poletti said. “So I love hitting that so I’m like I just hit that hard ‘til I squared up. I was just trying to get actually in the outfield so that one of them could score.”
The Bulldogs (21-2) had extended their lead to 11-0 before Poletti came up a second time in the inning and connected a two-out, two-run homer to finish 2-for-3 with five RBIs and two runs scored.
“We were really working on discipline and laying off the high ball,” Poletti said. “And just really making her pitch to us and throw the pitches that we could hit the best.”
Maurer, a West Chester University commit, went 2-for-3 with three RBIs and struck out seven in pitching three perfect innings for the Bulldogs, who won the Class 1A state title in 2021. Tri-Valley advances to face District 2 champ Old Forge – an 8-2 winner over District 4 champ Bucktail – in the quarterfinals Thursday at a site and time to be announced.
Dock Mennonite ends the season at 15-8. The Pioneers came into the PIAA tournament having won 10 straight after a 5-7 start – earning their first District 1 championship since taking the Class 3A title in 2017 by holding off Faith Christian 7-6 in the district final May 25 at Souderton.
“I have two seniors and I have two girls that play travel ball – I’d like to see their numbers on travel players, you know what I mean,” Benner said. “It’s hard because we’re starting at a level where we have to teach more. But I’m really proud of this team. I love coaching a small school cause when you get wins they really feel good based on you know where your team’s coming from versus who you’re playing.”
Graduating just two players from Monday’s starting lineup – second baseman Trinity Landis and right fielder Katherine Kardos – Benner expects next season’s squad to make a push at returning to states.
“We’re excited about next year,” he said. “We know a little bit about some of the girls coming in and I think you’ll see us back here.”
Schwalm went 2-for-2 with two RBIs and scored twice for Tri-Valley with Grace Header going 2-for-3 with two doubles, two RBIs and two runs scored. Cassidey Snyder finished 2-for-2 with a walk, a double and two runs scored while Libby McGrath had two RBIs and two runs scored.
Two batters after Poletti’s first homer made it 5-0, a Header RBI double to right center plated the Bulldog’s sixth run. After a Brittany Rice walk, Maurer ripped a two-RBI single up the middle for an 8-0 lead.
“Our goal was to get ‘em out early, to get runs on the board,” Poletti said. “Once our offense starts going, it just keeps going. That’s what I love about the girls and our mindset.”
A Mia Artz walk was followed by Schwalm’s RBI single. McGrath dropped a two-RBI single just inside the right-field line for an 11-0 advantage. After a strikeout, Poletti’s two-run blast to left had the Bulldogs up 13.
Snyder doubled then came in when Header hit an RBI double. Rice’s RBI single made it 15-0. Maurer reached on an error before Tri-Valley’s 20th batter of the inning flew out to center for the third out.
PIAA-1A First Round
(11-1) Tri-Valley 15, (1-1) Dock Mennonite 0 (3 innings)
Tri-Valley 0(15)0 – 15 13 0
Dock Mennonite 000 – 0 0 1
WP: Emma Maurer 3 IP 0 H 0 R 0 ER 0 BB 7 SO.
LP: Aubrey Gahman 3 IP 13 H 15 R 15 ER 4 BB 6 SO.
2B: TV-Grace Header 2, Cassidey Snyder; HR: TV-Gianna Poletti 2, Maurer, Maddy Schwalm
Tri-Valley: Header 2-3, 2 RBI, 2 R; Maurer 2-3, 3 RBI, R; Poletti 2-3, 5 RBI, 2 R; Schwalm 2-2, 2 RBI, 2 R; Snyder 2-2, 2 R; Libby McGrath 2 RBI, 2 R.